"Widen Your Hearts"
Updated: Nov 28, 2022
There's a curious instruction at the end of this passage in 2 Corinthians 6:
Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says,
“In a favourable time I listened to you,
and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”
Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We put no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.
We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.
The Corinthians that Paul was writing to began to close their hearts to him as he ministered. He probably heard about grumbling accusations and murmuring against him. Immense hardships can become a breeding ground for resentment. Morale isn't so much poisoned by pain as it is by an embittered perspective. Yet, here was Paul, arguably suffering more than them all and brimming with compassion. He did not return their sentiment in kind, but rather, extended love.
If we look at the preceding verses to the instruction to the church in Corinth to "widen our hearts", we can see a long list of the kinds of suffering and persecution that they had been through. It's natural for us to protectively curl around our hearts when we are in pain. The fallen nature of pain wants to blame someone. The end goal of "the accuser of the brethren" (satan) is not to inflict pain as much as it is to use it to accuse and cause accusation. Pain is merely the means he tries to use for his destructive purposes. God intends pain for his glory. When I mistrust God's redemptive purposes with my pain, it easily leads to misdirected anger and all manners of evil.
Paul is experiencing twinges of rejection on his commission. This time, it was not from the Romans, but from his brothers and sisters in the Lord. His lavish profession of his love for God's people is consistent in all of his letters. Yet, his blessing seemed to be eclipsed by their trouble. Rather than embrace another – especially One that God was using to herald a message of correction or encouragement - they withdrew their affections from him.
These words, "widen your hearts" have been worth it for me to meditate on. Where am I restricted in my affections? Can I think of times when pain has caused me to vilify someone? To whom is God calling me to widen my heart towards?
When we obey the Lord in pouring ourselves out to comfort and embrace others in the midst of our brokenness, we are kissed with God's love so much more powerfully. We ourselves, experience the healing power of his love that "covers a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8). I know that when refuse to widen my heart, it becomes difficult for me to consciously receive God's love and grace for myself.
Any time our lives take the shape of the cross is an invitation for joy.
There's tremendous freedom in taking no thought for ourselves and in rejecting those self-thoughts that exalt themselves against the knowledge of Jesus Christ. May the grace of God help us to see and love like Him, and remove every hindrance to pure affection for those he's called us towards.
The man of sorrow is rejoicing
Do not mistake his tears
They're worth more than sapphires
Just one can cure all fear
For Lazarus, Christ cried
like rain upon his bed
and then, just like the sun
he raised him from the dead
Because my friend is Love
and undefeated Might
I sing through tears
in dredge and drear
till the fog has fled the light
For, if the Word cries with me
as He's raising me to life
He'll also be my comfort
underneath redemption's knife
The joy that is my strength
in this sweetest friendship, grows
Yet, sorrow with my Jesus
is a greater joy than any joy
I'd ever known